Once and Future Kings
On Monday, “King” (why not “Rey”?) Felix Hernandez had one of those frustrating losses for any pitcher—a fielding error in the seventh inning led to four unearned runs, and he lost to the Astros after giving up only two earned runs. His ERA *ballooned* to 2.04. On Shakespeare’s birthday, let us say the obvious: heavy lies the crown that is paid $25,000,000 a year!
But speaking of Kings of Old: in a remarkable turnabout, Frankie “K-Rod” Rodriguez has eight saves already for the front-running Brewers. A 0.00 ERA and four saves in four games. The last we Met fans remember of Francisco, he was blowing saves and beating up his father-in-law in the “family” area of New Shea Stadium. He seems to have blown off that bad Minaya karma and is now approaching the bad-ass Venezolano who saved a record 62 games in the 2008 season. That being said, it’s a long season and perhaps the pendulum will swing back for Mr. K.
In another “where are they now?” moment, fast Freddy Garcia didn’t like any of the minor-league offers he received after being cut by the Braves, so he went to—Taiwan. That’s right, 50 grand a month to play for the Rhinos, the same team that gave Manny Ramirez a shot last season. Perhaps it will turn out better for Freddy, who with 150 wins is the all-time Venezuelan leader in that category….which brings us to…Johan Santana.
The big man from Tovar, in the mountains near Merida, Johan is whipping that well-used left arm into shape and apparently is reaching close to 85 mph on the radar gun. With his control, that may be enough to get Major League hitters out—especially the modern, anxious, strikeout-happy batters. Expect Johan to get a shot at the big time with the Orioles soon—and take his shot at Garcia’s win total (Johan has 139).
And speaking of strikeouts, a man who does very well at making contact is Alberto Callaspo of the Oakland Athletics (he and countryman Marco Scutaro of the Giants are among the toughest batters, statistically, to strike out in recent seasons). I’m a doubter of the sabermetricians’ philosophy that “an out is an out” which encourages guys to swing away; a strikeout being just another out in their book. Except, it’s not—put the ball in play, on the ground or in the air, and even professional players will occasionally boot it or drop it. And have some danged pride—when I was growing up, the strikeout was a real shame-bringer, the last thing you wanted to do. If you struck out, you trudged back to the dugout, deservedly so.
But even Callaspo had no luck against a King of the Present, Martin Perez of Guanare. He pitched his second straight complete-game three-hit shutout against the A’s on Wednesday after a nearly identical gem Friday against Chicago. He’s gone 26 innings without giving up a run and his ERA is down to 1.42. His fourth victory came against A’s ace Sonny Gray, no slouch himself at 3-1 with a 2.24 ERA.
On the other side of the Bay, 24-year-old catcher Hector Sanchez of Maracay has spelled Buster Posey behind the plate fourteen times this season, had the game of his young career with 2 home runs, including an 11th inning grand slam, and 5 RBIs. The kid might have a flair for the dramatic—he won the Giants’ last Cactus League game with a walk-off homer against these same Rockies.
On Monday, Alcides Escobar had one for the highlight reel–a running, sliding catch he made about 20 feet into the third base side foul territory on Jason Giambi, after starting the play to the right of second base in one of those exaggerated left-hander shifts. There to slap leather with him as he popped up holding the ball was countryman and Gold Glover Salvador Perez, who nearly got there from his catching position. These boys can play! Alcides even had an RBI, and Omar Infante is at steady .297. his opposite on the Cleveland side, Asdrubal Cabrera, struggles at the plate at .217 but turned two DPs with 2B Jason Kipnis. Escobar had two more hits on Tuesday to raise his average to .314.
On Monday, Anibal Sanchez gave up 3 runs in 6.1 innings, (0 until the fateful 7th) often enough for a win with the Tigers in the past, but not this season’s Detroit. Miggy Cabrera’s still struggling at the plate at .206–he won’t be there long (yup—on Tuesday he banged out 3 hits and raised his average about 30 points). Anibal is 0-2 with a respectable 3.54 ERA. Franklin Morales, late of the champion Bosox, is 2-1 as a starter for the Rockies. His last two starts have totaled 13 innings with just 2 earned runs.
Next up: southpaw Felix Doubront takes on the Yankees at Fenway on Thursday.